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Transitology – Pathways to and from Democracy

Transitology is a concept and analytical framework applied in political and social science to analyse and assess political regime change and the subsequent consolidation process of democratic institutions. It explains the different pathways how democratic institutions and regimes slowly consolidate and strengthen over time. Transitology also explains why weak and corrupted democratic institutions fail and backslide into authoritarian political practices and, subsequently, autocracies.

Such processes of transition and democratisation have been seen in countries and societies in Europe after WWII in 1945, during and after the decolonisation process in Africa and Latin America in the 1960s, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Not all have been successful, as seen in post-soviet Russia or post-colonial countries such as Nigeria, and post-junta regimes such as Venezuela.

Regime change and the transition from one regime type and mode of governance to another do not say much about whether a regime is democratic or whether the rule of law, human rights, or good governance principles are adhered to. What consolidates and successfully transforms democratic institutions into ‘stable democracies’ are the pathways of participatory, inclusive, and trustworthy adherence and compliance with democratic rules and human rights.

In this MOOC, we will ask critical questions: How do countries and political regimes successfully democratise? And what are the causes of democratic backsliding? How do democracies die, and how do they recover, if at all? Together with policymakers, academic researchers, and analysts, we will explore different forms of government and look at theories explaining political and societal transitions, transformation, and consolidation of regimes. We will also present and discuss concrete examples of political transitions and regime changes in different world regions.


Course Outline

The MOOC runs over 5 weeks and is organised in 3 modules:

Module 1 - Transitology and Waves of Democratisation

  • Transitology: Why do we want to change a political regime?
  • Conceptual differences between Democratisation and Democracy, Regime Change and Regime Consolidation
  • Conditions and stages of political regime change, transition, and democratic institutions building
  • Transitional Justice’s pathways to regime consolidation
  • Theoretical framework of three ‘Waves of Democratisation’

Module 2 - Modes of Governance and Regime Consolidation

  • Modes of Governance and Government: authoritarian, anocratic, democratic- and the in-betweens
  • Electoral semi-authoritarian regimes and anocracies
  • Defective and consolidated democracies
  • Quality of democracy

Module 3 - Backsliding of Democracy and Restoring Deficits

  • Four stages of democratic consolidation and transformation of political institutions and civil society
  • Deconsolidation and backsliding of democratic practices and institutional performances (cases from v-dem, BTI, Polity V, and IDEA)

Lecturers and Experts

In this MOOC, academic lecturers in the field of Regime/System Transformation, Quality of Democracy, Elections, and Comparative Politics have been invited to teach, as well as practitioners, data analysts, and policymakers from countries that are currently struggling with the backsliding of democratic institutions and/or are in demanding political regime change in their countries. The faculty list includes, among others:



The course is coordinated by Dr. Anja Mihr, OSCE Academy in Bishkek & Center on Governance through Human Rights in Berlin, who is also the main lecturer in the MOOC.


Learning Outcomes

In this MOOC you will learn about the different concepts, theories, normative and organisational frameworks, and setups, as well as historical and current best practices and case studies. You will also learn how to use them analytically in your day-to-day fieldwork or for academic research purposes.

Together with other MOOC participants, you will discuss…

  • theoretical and conceptual frameworks of transitology, such as the difference between the transition and transformation of political regimes
  • the concept of democratisation and democracy
  • different regime types: authoritarian, anocracies, and democracies
  • concepts of change theory and ‘tipping point’
  • inclusive versus exclusive processes of transition
  • democratic consolidation as a (slow!) process of attitudinal and behavioural change of society vis-à-vis political institutions.

You will learn to…

  • analyse the political process and the difference between institution building and the transformation/consolidation of institutions
  • detect and identify patterns and processes of consolidation of democratic (or autocratic) regimes and backsliding of democratic regimes
  • name the different stages of consolidation and de-consolidation of political regimes
  • outline the differences between electoral democracy and liberal democracy, between anocracies, authoritarian regimes, and autocracies
  • recognise the specific role of citizens and civil society and that of awareness, behaviour, and belief in regimes.

At the end of the course, you will be able to…

  • assess case studies in countries and societies worldwide and of your choice
  • write about and speak on any current political process of regime decline or strengthening of certain regime types.





How do I enrol in the course?

In order to enrol, please follow the instructions on our “How to Enrol” webpage. This will then lead you to the OpenEdX course page. Once you are there, you can start the enrolment process by clicking the "enrol" button.

Is there a selection procedure to participate in the course?

The course is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which means we do not select participants on any basis. Rather, we welcome anyone who is interested in learning more about the topic to enrol and participate for free.



I would like to know if the course is free or if some parts are to be paid

Our course is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which means all components are open and totally free for anyone.

Do I need to pay any fee to attend the course?

There are no registration or tuition fees. The certificate of participation is also free and offered to all those who successfully complete all the course requirements (see below for details on the certificate).



Is the course accessible to persons with disabilities?

We want all participants in our courses to enjoy a great learning experience and we strive to always improve accessibility. Each week of the course includes one or two video lectures with accompanying transcripts and reading materials. The texts are in PDF format, work at low bandwidths, are printable and can be zoomed to the desired size. Some readings may include pages from accessible websites. This makes all of them accessible to those who use assistive technology software such as screen readers. Likewise, weekly discussions and module quizzes can be completed through our platform which is accessible, for example, to people who use speech input, keyboard accessible controls or text to speech tools. For more details please visit EdX Website Accessibility Policy.


Structure and content

Is there a schedule for the course or is it self-directed?

The course is self-paced and mostly asynchronous so participants can study in their own time. However, to enhance peer learning, interactive participation and self-assessment, weekly topics and discussions as well as module quizzes are proposed at set dates. In any case, they are all open until the end of the course to facilitate access and completion at any preferred time. For a detailed description of the schedule check the course outline page on our website.


Certificate of participation

What do I need to do to get the certificate of participation?

At the end of the course, if you have actively participated in all required weekly discussions and successfully completed all quizzes, you will receive a certificate confirming your participation.


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